CD Reviews

This week we review the latest albums from Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Virgins, Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves, The Mars Volta and Wilco.



> Crosby, Stills & Nash. Demos. Rhino Entertainment.
3 stars (out of 5)

The 12 tracks on this collection are, in the main, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash demos, as opposed to band efforts.

Some songs appear later on CSN albums, others feature on solo releases.

The effect is to drop the listener in on an open mike session, where the three workshop their newly-formed compositions free of embellishment.

Some, such as Marrakesh Express (one of the few to feature all three singers), sound lightweight and dated.

Others, such as Stills' My Love Is A Gentle Thing and Crosby's Almost Cut My Hair, benefit from their primal treatment.

Single download: Love The One You're With
For those who like: Collector's items. This one's for hardcore fans.

- Jeff Harford

> The Virgins. The Virgins. Atlantic.
3stars (out of 5)

It's easy to dislike The Virgins.

Hailing from the painfully hip metropolis of Manhattan, two of the quartet (singer Donald Cummings and guitarist Wade Oates) were once male models, they've played gigs at Paris Fashion Week, and five songs from this, their self-titled debut, have soundtracked the debauchery of Gossip Girl.

And yet, the heady mix of louche vocals, whipcrack guitars and breezy keyboards contained within not only rises above the hipster-pandering, but also recalls the kind of insouciant downtown rock shaped by The Strokes - the likes of Rich Girls and Teen Lovers positively bristle with snotty punk energy.

Single download: Rich Girls
For those who like: The Strokes, Gossip Girl, skinny jeans.

- John Hayden


> Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves. The Messenger. Liberation.
4 stars (out of 5)

The debut album from former Dunedin, now Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Matt Joe Gow is a rich gathering of his musical inspirations, filtered through the baritone voice of a well-travelled 30-year-old who knows how to write a tune.

Yes, there is more than a shade of Ryan Adams here, but you're left with the feeling this is just the start, such is the confidence in delivery.

Aided by big Telecaster tones, slide guitar, mandolin and a bit of piano here and there, Joe Gow crows, croons and cries across 11 tracks, most of which are rather good.

Single download: At The Seams
For those who like: The Jayhawks, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams.

- Shane Gilchrist

> The Mars Volta. Octahedron. Mercury.
4 stars (out of 5)

It's taken five albums, but it seems that the behemoths of befuddlement have finally mellowed.

Where Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala once confounded with prog rock wig-outs, squalling jazz and fiddly guitar solos, Octahedron is marked by a newfound sense of immediacy.

Opener Since We've Been Wrong is as confessional as any singer-songwriter (do you remember how you wore that dress?), while Copernicus displays hitherto unheralded melodic tenderness.

Though the proggy pretensions and epic riffola are still evident, Octahedron remains the Volta's most accessible and refreshing release to date.

Single download: Copernicus
For those who like: When virtuosity takes a back seat to melody.

- John Hayden

> Wilco. Wilco (The Album). Nonesuch Records.
4 stars (out of 5)

Chicago outfit Wilco has been called a lot of things in its 15 years of existence: neo-folk, alt-country, experimental, even dad-rock, whatever that means.

Yet, self-assured is the first term that springs to mind when evaluating the band's seventh studio album.

Wilco (The Album) is not so much an attempt to push the boundaries as a celebration of chemistry, quiet textures and taut grooves.

The gentle harmonies and organ of You And I, the glorious rise and fall of Deeper Down and the strident chime of You Never Know all make the same point: frontman Jeff Tweedy is a remarkably consistent songwriter.

Single download: Solitaire
For those who like: The Band, Radiohead.

- Shane Gilchrist


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